Poetry: Half-Self at 28 –Rachael Katz

Half-Self at 28

for David Berman

There is something so unimportant
about the age I have
tenderly stricken it from the record
on a overly warm Christmas Day
that I try to sleep through
in full costume. I think “at least
I am healthy,” and feel romantic
about my HMO which has just
released a new pamphlet that outlines
whether it is possible to news-
feed a lover to death.
Also mentioned in this issue:
amassing hysteria and how we know
video eats the eyes.

It is a good pamphlet
the kind that makes you feel
mothered: that hand that places
a glass thermometer
in your mouth just as the world
is heating up around you and you try
to mouth the words “it’s not
a fever” but we mustn’t bite
the thermometer.

If climate change turns out to be a bully
putting the god of the space program
in a headlock for the next
hundred and fifty years I wouldn’t
mind becoming a hair model or
shutting myself up
in a center console and waiting
for my bag of school to arrive.
Let me be clear. I am learning how
to change never change never
show six more weeks of winter.
I am trying to improve
through sleeping
alone.

Somehow I have willfully forgotten much
of my childhood. A few standout moments
float to the surface:
honeysuckle on the school fence
lice shampoo
the blue whiskers of twelve stitches in my chin
dancing to Space Jam at the governor’s mansion
learning there were holes in the grid
of my neighborhood that led
to similar but brighter neighborhoods.

It is these other neighborhoods that
I still look for in the landscape.

As a way not to be afraid of
whatever is Out There I study
human garbage. There is so much
of it to go around. Call it
an exercise in loss. I peer
into the bins and mourn
to rescue: sticking up for art
for artificial sweetener I say
“my god I own you
puddingskin forclosure.” Here lies
our pudding. The accretion
is elegy.

Sometimes I will be taking a shortcut
through a narrow alley in a city I do not know
and I will for a brief shuddering second
feel the nowadays unavailable
fear of being unwatched
and what if this alley actually goes
nowhere
and what if it goes somewhere but
that somewhere is full of ambivalent crows
that imitate perfectly the circular shuffling
movements of those closest to me?

I can’t decide if I will be troubled
or comforted by the inevitable circles
I will make
as unappreciated in their time
as the two-handed contour
drawings of the late twentieth-
century masters
of the etch a sketch
whose works are the best hard evidence
for predeterminism.

For two years of my life I was born again
because I couldn’t remember
being born the first time and
the retelling was always
skewed to the unremarkable.

This year I have vowed
to build a nativity scene
of my birth that will take place in my
great-grandmother’s duplex
and my brother and the cactus he ate
while awaiting my arrival will be in attendance. Also
there will be an appearance by the
cobblestone street adjacent to our street
which I have been told many times
never existed but now it is
too late to unremember.

Some memories are just examples
of deeply innocuous lies
lies so soft-soled and kind
they are the opposite
of the wolf.

I know you worry less
that I am a liar
than you worry that I believe in lying
as a mode of exaltation. I’m here
to tell you it’s true.

Rachael Katz works as an artist in residence at the Women & Children’s Hospital of Buffalo. Her chapbook “Any Berry You Like” was published by iO Books in 2014.

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